NOTE: Warning, this post is long - you might need a cup of Joe to go along with it. This is Part 2 of a 10 day series on Accidental Unschooling. If you are OCD and want to start from the introduction or Part 1, hop to the bottom of this post and use the conveniently provided links!
SO MANY CHOICES...
In homeschooling, there are quite a few questions a mom must ask before she sets out on a course of study...
Why am I homeschooling? (You'll need to write that down and keep it handy - trust me)
What are my long term goals for my children?
How many children will I teach at home?
What are their learning styles?
What is my teaching style?
What method will I use to teach? (which is what this series is covering)
What curriculum will I use?
What part of the year will we study? All year / 6 weeks on, 1 week off / traditional 180 days with a summer break?
What will our routine look like?
Will my children be required to work independently?
How will the meals and home get managed?
How will we set up our learning areas and maintain order?
I found after homeschooling nearly a decade, that I could answer a portion of these questions differently depending on the circumstances of our lives each year, each school year, or each semester. Even our morale at the time when you asked them might change our answers. The only constant thing that never changed in all those questions for me was my reason for homeschooling. It was what I kept coming back to in periods of burn-out or difficulty.
I researched the different homeschooling methods briefly when I started schooling my kids, but they were only two and four when we started, so I thought I would have plenty of time later to figure out learning styles and such. [Amazing how fast time flies, as my kids are now 15 and 13, in 9th and 8th grades, and I have a couple of tots who are nearing the next go-around at 3 and 1.] Naturally, coming from a public school, I started out with worksheets and textbooks. We did things pretty much like a tiny classroom, aside from the huge amount of picture-book reading we did every week... and the field trips. I've always been a field trip lover.
While I was mostly a traditionalist in the early years, I seemed to start early with eclectic tendencies, and daydreamed about being a more Charlotte Mason style homeschooler at heart. When your methods do not match your desires, an internal tug-of-war will ensue, causing you to eventually change those methods. Either that, or you'll be miserable when things get difficult (and with parenting and homeschooling, difficulty is a given eventuality). Traditionalism for me was easy to give up (since I am not a fan of textbooks and I have an artistic side that loves nature), but it was awhile before I would consider myself eclectic.
METHODS OF LEARNING
If you haven't studied the methods of homeschooling for yourself, here they are in a nutshell:
Led by the parent, typically with the mom teaching. In a more formal home it may resemble the traditional classroom. The parents pick the curriculum - quite often a boxed set or online package which was created for the classroom (i.e.; ABeka).
All subjects are taught in correlation with a certain topic so that studies are deeper and more hands on. Some unit studies are broken up further by character trait (KONOS) or done chronologically (Tapestry of Grace). The parent usually does a lot of planning and directs the course of study, but sometimes children are a part of the lesson planning based on their interests.
Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was a British educator who, by observation over her lifetime, developed a unique approach to education that embraces nature, treats children as small adults with unlimited learning potential, focuses on "living books" (as original to the source as possible), and puts heavy emphasis on life lessons and discipline. She's written a few thick volumes on her methods and many people have also written companion books summarizing them or showing practical application of her style of educating. She's famous for her educational quotes.
Education is a life; that life is sustained on ideas; ideas are of spiritual origin, and that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another. The duty of parents is to sustain a child's inner life with ideas as they sustain his body with food. - Charlotte Mason
This mode of teaching is based upon ancient methods of learning that is taught in three stages called "the trivium" (meaning three-fold way) - the Grammar stage (storing of vast amounts of information and memorizing), the Dialect stage (reasoning increases and he learns to argue a point and have an opinion - near junior high), and the Rhetoric stage (self-discovery and expression, logic and maturity). There's a large chunk of information online regarding Classical Christian Education and corresponding book lists to boot. Classical Conversations is a community of classical Christian homeschoolers that often meet in co-op groups to encourage one another in academic learning and provide accountability.
Homeschoolers who can't be pinned down to any one particular method - who do a "little of this" and a "little of that" - are eclectic in their methods. Often an eclectic homeschooler is one who tries different methods to find whatever works and uses different methods with different kids. Some homeschoolers find themselves in this group because they are short on funds and must pick certain curricula or methods because they are affordable. Others just enjoy being more part of the process of individualizing the path to learning and forming their own unique philosophy. Most relaxed homeschoolers would consider themselves eclectic as well.
Method of learning from birth to adolescence in which the child learns by following his own interests (heavily centered around play in the early years), teaching his peers, being provided with many sensory toys, and opportunities for discovery. There is a large focus for the teacher to be there as a guide, rather than an instructor; keeping records on how the child is learning, if they are happy (great emphasis is made on emotion as related to the "love for learning"), and if they are being kind to other kids. Older children are expected to manage their own education and follow their interests with research, making "contracts" with their teacher as to their goals.
Unschooling is a loose term that is generally understood as being a child-led or self-directed learning approach which purposes to turn the spark of curiosity into a fire that grows into a lifetime of learning. Unschooling shuns artificial time constraints to allow a child the time to delve deep as his interest drives him. Unschoolers see learning as a natural part of living and a process that is lifelong. As with eclectic homeschooling, the face of unschooling can look very different from family to family.
The Waldorf teaching method was developed by Austrian, Rudolf Steiner, after the first World War, in 1919 as a way to teach children a sense of ethics and less damaging ways of resolving conflict. The motto of the Waldorf way of teaching is educating the "heart, the hands, and the head" (the whole child). Play, art, and imagination are paramount. The inspiration behind education is believed to be of spiritual nature ("every human has a spiritual core") and Waldorf methods introduce myth, holiday, and culture to help a child with self-discovery and promote tolerance and a respect for individual freedom.
Some parents (especially those that must work from home and don't have enough time to oversee their children's education) chose to enroll their kids in virtual/online homeschooling, opting to do school-at-home. Public and private schools offer distance learning and do all of the teaching, grading, and recording for the parent. State-approved curriculum is often offered to the parent free of charge because it is part of the public schooling system at large. Depending on the program, students are required to spend a lot of time in front of the computer, use textbooks, and are tested to monitor their retention.
If you take a close look at all of those definitions, and even more so if you truly study them deeper, you'll find that there is a level of overlap that lends itself to the eclectic homeschooler. There's something likable about almost all of the methods of homeschooling. Being by nature, free-thinkers that are already going against culture's norm by homeschooling, it is no wonder that so many homeschoolers end up blazing their own path by picking and choosing what works from each method of teaching. For me, the first method change began in my first year.
By the end of my first year of Kindergarten (with my 4-year-old-son) and Preschool (with my 2-year-old daughter), I had driven the poor boy in my class mad, trying to push him to read and spending much too long inside at our kitchen table. Even I, who had been brought up in straight rows of desks, knew that I was killing his God-given desire to play, have fun outside, enjoy the world around him, and just be a kid. I figured that meant I was making "school" a dreaded word, too. I shared these thoughts with an older homeschool mother over a slice of dill bread at her home one day, and she handed me a huge, yellow book.
KONOS was a whole new idea for me to swallow - unit studies based upon character traits, multi-age level teaching at the same time, all subjects merging into the study of one topic, hands-on fun, and dramatization. But it was the reading that hooked me. I'm a sucker for a great book list. I was already cleaning out the library almost weekly. Once I started KONOS, I joined an online Yahoo group of KONOS users and instantly had a support group and mentors to guide me. I met a lot of friends on that email loop and a tiny two-family co-op was started that transformed our dull Kindergarten and Preschool into what I could only call PLAY. I had found our "sweet spot" in homeschooling, where learning was fun again. With young kids who could easily adapt and a dose of enthusiasm breathed back in to our schooling, Unit Studies became our new way of learning.
It was during the KONOS years that I began blogging. I shared much of my early year adventures through those times in my homeschool series posts (book lists, field trip lists, etc). The main page for my homeschool series is a story of our homeschooling journey (that is a couple of years past due an update), and it has links to my homeschool posts in order of school year/grade/age. It's funny, though - just when you think you 'have it down' and are an old hat at something, life deals you a new set of rules. My elementary-aged kids became teens, our life had twists and turns including moves, transitions, and new additions to the family. Through those changes, my methods were again forced under the evaluating microscope.
I'll pick up tomorrow with my change to outright eclectic methods and dabbling with Charlotte Mason. See you then!
Introduction to this series
Day 1: Not So Super
Day 2: Morphing Methods
Day 3: Out of the Box
Day 4: Learning From Life
Day 5: Grace is for Homeschoolers
Day 6: Taste and See
Day 7: Grease and Sugar
Day 8: Carschooling and Fieldtripping
Day 9: Reading to Succeed
Be sure to join me each day. I'll be giving away a prize to a random winner in my comments section on these posts. Each comment counts as one entry. I love comments! Even if I don't have time to answer every comment or email, I cherish them and enjoy getting to know my fellow homeschooling moms.
This post is a part of the 10 Days of... Series at iHomeschoolNetwork. Check out the other amazing homeschool bloggers who are participating in the writing challenge by visiting the landing page there.
Thanks for joining me!
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